Tuesday, March 6, 2012

El Paso, Texas (Feb. 18, 2012-Mar 6, 2012)

There were several reason we wanted an extended stay in El Paso; first, we wanted to see several places that were not too close; second, we had several errands we had to do that would take several days each; third, there were several restaurants we wanted to experience; and lastly, but most importantly, the O'Doodle brothers needed a veterinarian appointment for medication renewals. It took us over two weeks to accomplish the last item.

El Paso, Texas is located in the Chihuahua Desert and shares a metropolitain area and border with its sister city in Mexico, Juarez.  Ft. Bliss, an Army base, occupies most of the city area and is its major financial contributor.  We had not been to this area before and we were quite surprised to see so much desolation just outside of the city limits.  It is, virtually, all desert.  We were, also, not prepared for the windy conditions that exist in this area and, as we were told, throughout the Southwest at this time of the year.  This is, also, the place where we began to have trouble with our sinuses and noses due to the very low humidity.  Several things we had to get used to.

We tried three of the local restaurants for different foods while we were here.  The first was the State Line BBQ just outside of El Paso. We found they had several locations throughout Texas and New Mexico.  Each of us had something different and neither were disappointed.  The prices were decent, too.  The next was a local taqueria (taco shop), Taqueria Los Canarios.  Excellent! The last restaurant was north of the city on the 88,000 acre Bowen Ranch, the Edge of Texas Steakhouse and Saloon.  Great steaks and drinks.  There were many others we wanted to try, but there was so much other stuff we had to do.

In between our chores and bad weather days we were able to squeeze in some sightseeing.  Saturday, the 25th, we decided to take a road trip to the north so we all packed up and headed to Alamogordo, New Mexico for a look-see.The route we took, TX/NM 54,  parallels the White Sands Missile Range.  This road has very little on it.  Uninhabited desert all the way.  Alamogordo was not too bad, but not a place we would want to live.  It was a small town with not much there.

On our circuitous route back to El Paso, we stopped at the White Sands National Monument on NM 70.  This is an awesome place.  The sands are truly as white as white can be and are in dunes all over this area.  The dunes are formed by gypsum sand from the mountains to the west and are blown by the winds to form the dunes.  Lots of sun, sand, but no surf.  Big sport here was sledding down the dunes just as if they were snow hills.

From White Sands we were going to head west on NM 70 to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Our plan was to ride through the historic district of the city, but that did not happen.  On the way out of the Monument we noticed a lot of flashing lights on emergency vehicles at the entrance.  Pulling up to the road we were told we could not proceed and we would have to go back into the Visitor Center parking lot and wait.  Seems like they had closed down this road, a divided dual lane highway, in both ways.  In turning around we noticed a motorcycle on the right side of the road.We then noticed the worst-of-the-worst, someone laying face down, not moving, in the middle of the road.  An EMT was standing over the person not doing too much of anything.  It was obvious.  An article on the accident: http://www.alamogordonews.com/ci_20055775

We were told the highway, in the direction we were going, would be closed for 2-4 hours while an investigation was performed.  Now what?  We could go back to El Paso the way we came, but that would be boring so we decided to go farther north and then west to I-25 to Las Cruces.  This would add 200 miles onto the planned 200 mile road trip.  Oh well.  We had the time.

We continued north on NM 54 to Carrizozo, NM then west on NM 380 to I-25.  Again there was not much on NM 54 to Carrizzo.  Carrizozo itself was intriguing.  It looked representative of an old, small southwestern town with a lot of history.

Heading west on NM 380, and just outside of Carrizozo,  we found the Valley of Fires Recreation Area.  This is a lava flow from a long extinct volcano.  It is VERY large and it is quite interesting.  They have a nice campground and an interpretive trail that winds through the flow.  The 44 mile long lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. Good place to stop and explore.  As you can see from this satellite photo, it is very pronounced.

We continued west to I-25 and headed south towards Las Cruces, NM.  We did not waste any time since it was getting late and we wanted to get back to our RV before dark.  We started on our drive-about before sunrise and it was about to get dark.  We made it back just after sunset very tired and morose from witnessing the horrific scene at White Sands.  That put a damper on the entire day.

The remainder of our sight seeing trips were around the immediate area, that is, when the high winds weren't blowing dust all over the place.  As I stated earlier, it seems this part of the country and at this time of the year has high winds almost all of the time.  During our 18 day stay at least 6 of them were so windy one could barely go outside without a dust mask on.  On four of those days the wind was blowing so bad it had the dust coming in on us like a snow storm.  The visibility was less than a quarter of a mile.  Needless to say we kept our RV buttoned up as tight as we could, but still the fine, talcum powder-like dust got into everything. 

 With the last of our chores and errands completed and with us seeing everything we had wanted to, it was time to move on.  We chose Deming, New Mexico as our next stop for it was in the direction we were headed and it wasn't too far from El Paso.  We had decided we wanted to take up the hobby of rock collecting and Deming was supposed to be a great area for that.  We'll see.

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